This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Ugly – Raymond Washington
On Aug. 14, 1953, Raymond Lee Washington was born in Los Angeles, California. Raised by his mother and stepfather, Washington grew up on East 76th St.
Although he was a good football player, his grades were too low to be allowed to participate. He was expelled frequently from several schools.
In the late 1960s, the area where Washington lived became riddled with youth crime like violent street robberies. The Black Panther Party and the US Organization worked to put an end to the street gangs. New gangs formed in their place. Washington joined The Avenues but left after getting beaten up by the brother of a boy Washington had fought.
He started his own gang in South Central called the Baby Avenues which later changed its name to the Avenue Cribs. Washington had a thing for fist fighting. He was not a fan of guns and would rather use his hands in a fight. His reputation as a fighter caused fear among other gang members. But before the gang became violent they really just wanted to secure their neighborhood to prevent the dangerous gangs from coming in.
One of Washington’s fellow gang members walked with a limp and Washington’s older brother Reggie had bad ankles and walked bowlegged. They used to joke around and call each other “cripple.” A victim of the Avenue Cribs claimed one of the suspect was a “Crip,” short for cripple. So in 1969, the gang became known as the Crips and formed sets of their gangs in other areas. The Crips gang is now international, with a network of individual gangs known for its violence, murder, and drug dealing. Washington believed in robbery and fighting only when necessary – stealing food, clothes, and money to alleviate some of the poverty they faced. As new members joined, the gang began committing homicides.
When Washington was 21, he was arrested for second degree robbery and sentenced to five years at Deuel Vocational Institution. He started recruiting Crips much to the anger of the Black Muslims and the Black Guerrilla Family. In addition the Crips started murdering rival gang members – victims who were related to inmates at Deuel. They blamed Washington for the deaths and tried to kill him.
After his release from prison, Washington found that the Crips and their rival gang, the Bloods, had escalated to using guns instead of fists. He started to pull away from the gang, but decided to try to bring all the subsets of the gang under one roof. He wanted to unify the group and work toward a truce with the Bloods.
On Aug, 9, 1979, Washington was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Police knew that Washington never walked up to vehicles of people he didn’t know, but on this night, he walked up to a car after someone called for him. Knowing the occupants, Washington started talking to them when the passenger pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and shot Washington. He was rushed to the hospital while he died during surgery.
Raymond Washington. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Washington
Valdemar, Richard. (2007, May 9). The Dawn of the Crips. Police Magazine. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://www.policemag.com/blog/gangs/story/2007/05/the-dawn-of-the-crips.aspx.